30 April, 2015

Xenophobia, Immigration and Pan-Africanism

by Shamiso Marange

The ongoing xenophobic attacks by South Africans against African immigrants should be a wake-up call for Africans leaders. There is of course, no justification whatsoever for the hooliganism, violence and inhumane attacks being perpetrated against the foreigners in South Africa. Especially in this day and age in which open discourse, petitions and peaceful protests are among the instruments at the disposal of the citizens in a ‘democratic’ state like South Africa in expressing their plight and whatever displeasure they may feel at the influx of foreigners in their country.

The images of necklacing and stoning of foreigners to death that is being displayed by the South Africans are very disturbing and inexcusable. Furthermore, the manner in which the South African government is responding to the matter and their inability to put together long-term solutions that stop these attacks on foreigners is very worrisome.

Photo: UNHCR/Linh Dang

On one hand, the statements made by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners must leave because they are taking South African jobs, are politically incorrect and are a source for heightened nationalistic sentiment that instigates attacks on foreigners, but even so his words should not be taken lightly. Whether people care to admit it or not many South Africans, particularly those in the low-income earning bracket, feel this way. Actually, it is arguable that these nationalistic attitudes could be the probable reason why the South African leadership is being lethargic in offering condemnations of the violence.

On the other hand, the stance that is being taken by African leaders in relation to the xenophobic attacks is equally as irking as the Zulu King’s speech. President Lungu of Zambia and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, to mention a few, are insisting that South Africa should accommodate African immigrants because the continent made sacrifices for the country during the apartheid era. Other African leaders are threatening to cut off South African electricity supplies and boycott their goods and products.

This arm-twisting approach, that the Africans want to adopt is counter-productive and is not a solution to the immigration problem in South Africa. The Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, was founded on the basis that all African countries should unite toward their common enemy – colonialism and racism alongside ensuring that Africans felt at home in any nation they set foot in on the continent. After all, the African states are demarcated by artificial boarders.

However, by assisting South Africans during the apartheid era, it illustrates that Africans adopted and understood the pan-Africanist ideology, that they should unite, defend and lift each other up. The African leaders of the 1960s through to the 1980s, in spite of their own hardships, were willing to assist the freedom fighters, politicians, academics, musicians or artists that were in exile because that was the right thing to do.

Now for African leaders to take and use this argument as an excuse to impose their nationals on South Africans is illogical, and shows that they are adhering to the perpetual victim mentality which is in stark opposition to the pan-Africanist concept. South Africa is not dealing with several hundred African immigrants, instead they are giving sanctuary to millions of them.

African leaders need to be addressing the underlying causes that are making their nationals economic and political refugees and unwanted entities in other people’s countries. Immigrants from Africa are fleeing the undemocratic systems, the lack of good governance, the poverty and corruption in their own countries. They are seeking greener pastures, which in itself is not a wrong, but what economic value are they bringing to which ever nation they are settling in? What good are the immigrants if they are leeching off a poorly implemented immigration system and denying the South Africans opportunities within their own countries.

What many people seem to forget is that the only African and most contested member state of the BRICS is still a developing country. The South African government has its own socio-economic problems that they need to address, that include providing its citizens with decent housing and sanitation, quality education and health care and ensuring that the 24 percent of its population that is unemployed (according to the national census of 2011), is given preference in income-generating projects that can take them out of poverty. It is not the South African government’s duty to save the citizens from other African nations.

Xenophobic attacks on African immigrants are taking place not only in South Africa, but in Greece, in Israel and other isolated incidences in Europe have occurred although not on a grand scale. All these attacks are a wake-up call for Africans to get their houses in order. They should have some dignity and take responsibility and address the political and socio-economic situations of their people within their own countries. They should offer their citizens peaceful and safe environments to prosper and pursue their own happiness. If Africans could be seen as holiday-makers, academics and business people and not a liability, then they would be more than welcome to any nation they chose to go to.

Of course the argument is more complex than this, it is true that South Africans must stop the xenophobic attacks because their acts are barbaric and tarnish the image of a very beautiful country. But then again if African leaders made a more fervent effort to turn around their citizens' economic situations, reducing the need for their people to emigrate in search of greener pastures, then xenophobic attacks on African immigrants could become a thing of the past.

19 April, 2015

Revisiting the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP): Water for Life?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“Has the provider for life become a threat to life?”
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a bi-national collaboration between the governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The multi-billion dollar project is by far the biggest and the most complex water scheme in Africa. It has two main goals: to transfer water from Lesotho to South Africa; and, to produce hydroelectricity in Lesotho. Feasibility studies for the project were launched in 1978, and later led to the signing of the Lesotho Highlands Water Treaty (LHWT) in 1986. However, the entire water project faces contentions between both countries’ politicians and policy-makers to renegotiate the issue of “water transferred to South Africa and the royalties received by Lesotho”. This issue has been controversial and somewhat sensitive.

Katse Dam, Lesotho (Photo: Christian Wörtz)

This might be a result of two key issues. Firstly, this bilateral treaty was signed by Lesotho’s military junta that came into power through a military coup in 1986, the same year the treaty was signed. And, secondly, despite the World Bank providing funding to an illegitimate government for the construction of this hydropower project, it also failed to complete its environmental and social studies prior to releasing the funds. Furthermore, these studies were not subject to public scrutiny.

However, the most crucial controversy surrounding the LHWP is its threat to life. To-date, the project has left devastating environmental and social effects both to arable land and communities that inhabit these lands. Firstly, thousands of people were displaced from arable areas that were economically viable. Secondly, no proper compensation (at a level commensurate with the current socio-economic demands), was provided. The current economic demands are far greater than the monetary compensation provided. What is also important to note is that monetary gains can never compensate for the agricultural subsistence lost. In 1996 people who protested for proper compensation were shot at, with some wounded and some killed. Thirdly, these people are deprived of clean water and electricity. And lastly, in the face of poverty for most of Lesotho’s citizens and the country’s poor agricultural activity, arable land was damaged in the construction of this project therefore posing a threat to local food security.

What is evident is that the social and environmental implications on land and inhabitants are far greater than the hydropower potential expected. And this is due to the fact that in terms of three essential responsibilities noted in political science (i.e. national, international and humanitarian responsibilities) for the people, politicians and policy-makers in carrying out their duties were or are not being adhered to. Firstly, the national responsibility holds that “states people are responsible for the well-being of their citizens. The only fundamental standard of conduct that they should adhere to in their foreign policy is that of national self-interest”. Secondly, according to the international responsibility, “states people have a foreign obligation deriving from their state’s membership of international society, which involves rights and duties as defined by international law and therefore they must observe International Law”.

And lastly, humanitarian responsibility provides that “states people have an obligation to respect Human Rights”. This responsibility postulates that “states people must give sanctuary to those in need of material aid which you can supply at no sacrifice to yourself”. All these responsibilities are essential in curbing the corruption associated with royalties, in addressing the preservation of arable land in order to better address poor agricultural activity and food security; the provision of water and electricity; and, the provision of adequate compensation.

10 April, 2015

South Africa and the Islamic State

by Hussein Solomon

This past week, South African media and social networking sites paid a great deal of attention to a story emanating from Cape Town. A 15-year-old girl was taken off a British Airways flight on her way to join the Islamic state. South Africa’s State Security Minister David Mahlobo confirmed that the country’s intelligence services were investigating the manner in which the girl was recruited and how she managed to obtain funds to pay for the airfare.

The shock and surprise accompanying the announcement was, however, unfathomable. Six weeks earlier, in February 2015, one newspaper broke the story that members of an Eastern Cape family sold their home to join IS. In November 2014, meanwhile, the Daily Maverick reported of how an 18-year-old South African from Johannesburg using the pseudonym of Abu Huraya al-Afriki was fighting with IS and making use of various social media platforms to recruit other South Africans to join the jihadist cause of “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – the IS leader.

These are not isolated incidents. Indeed one estimate puts the number of South Africans fighting for IS at 140. According to Iraq’s Ambassador to South Africa, three South African IS members have already been killed in the fighting. All this points to the ideological appeal of IS together with their tech-savvy social media propaganda and their military successes on the ground (IS controls an area the size of Britain in Iraq and Syria). This ideological appeal was captured by Abu Hurayra when he stated, “I joined the Islamic State because their aim is to establish the word of Allah (There is no God, but Allah) as the highest, and the word of Kufr (disbelief) as lowest, and this is what Allah tells us in the Qur’an to do. So, it is a compulsory duty upon all the Muslims around the world to join the Jihad, although many of them are misguided and Allah did not choose them…”. The danger for South Africa as developments in Libya and Tunisia testify is when those who return from the Middle East establish sleeper cells in their home country.

The astonishment of the South Africa’s security services to this development is shocking given the fact that 15,000 people from 80 countries have already flocked to the IS banner. More importantly, given recent developments in Australia, Canada, Paris, Libya and Tunisia as well as with Nigeria’s Boko Haram aligning itself with IS, one would assume that Pretoria’s securocrats would have understood that the country is not immune from these global developments. Moreover, given South Africa’s history with radicalism – one would have expected South Africa’s security forces to be on high alert. By 1997, for instance, both Hezbollah and Al Qaeda had established a presence in the country. By the early 2000s, reports of various jihadi paramilitary camps inside the country as well as in neighbouring states, more specifically, Mozambique came to light.

On a more positive note, various Muslim clerics and organizations are now condemning the barbarism which is the Islamic State. At the same time, many of these like Shabbier Ahmed Saloojee, the principal of Zakariyya Park madrassa in Johannesburg are receiving threatening calls for their anti-IS stance. It is a troubling development when moderate Muslims are intimidated from speaking out against the radicals and does not portend well for the future.